Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Preparedness Revisited: W(h)ither PPD-8?

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Preparedness Revisited: W(h)ither PPD-8?

Article excerpt


On March 30, 2011, President Obama issued Presidential Policy Directive (PPD-8), a sweeping statement on national preparedness.[1] Its objective is "aimed at strengthening the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation, including acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics, and catastrophic natural disasters."[2] One of the more important purposes of PPD-8 is to establish a national-level foundation that can be adapted to and utilized by stakeholders at the state and local level.[3]

This punchy, six page Directive set in motion a complex set of supporting policies, programs, and procedures affecting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as well as all federal agencies with homeland security responsibilities. Critical components of this directive include developing a National Preparedness Goal (the Goal ) that identifies core capabilities necessary for preparedness; employing a risk-informed capabilities planning method for prioritizing stakeholder capabilities; establishing a National Preparedness System (NPS) to guide planning and implementation activities needed to achieve the Goal; and producing a series of annual National Preparedness Reports (NPR) to assess progress.

As readers familiar with homeland security policies can attest, PPD-8 appeared somewhat abruptly on the scene, replacing Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-8) signed by President George W. Bush in late 2003.[4] No reasons were given in the Directive or accompanying public statements for why it was decided to replace HSPD-8 , nor were references made in PPD-8 to the existence of such an earlier, similar directive.[5] It is difficult to avoid concluding that political forces as well as substantive needs were at work in driving PPD-8 , designed to give President Obama full credit for moving forward on national preparedness, without explicit recognition of work done under the previous Administration.[6]

During the few years the new Directive has been in existence, the nation has experienced a series of devastating natural disasters and accidents, as well as the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon.[7] National preparedness has once again become a prominent public policy issue.

The purpose of this article is to explore the question of how well PPD-8 might meet its goals and objectives by the time the Obama Administration's second term is completed. It offers an understanding of the important similarities and differences between PPD-8 and the earlier HSPD-8 .[8] Referring to the article's odd subtitle, our investigation can be framed as whither PPD-8 (i.e., where is it bound?) or wither PPD-8 (i.e., will it fade away?).


Preparedness in the PPD-8 context is taken to mean building the core capabilities "necessary to prepare for the specific types of incidents that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation [... and a set of] prioritized objectives to mitigate that risk."[9] Using a capability-based planning process, the Goal identifies thirty-one different core capabilities aimed at turning each of five mission areas - prevent, protect mitigate, respond, recover - into practical policies and programs expressed as a set of prioritized objectives to reduce that risk.[10] The Goal also offers preliminary targets for each capability - so-called capability targets (TC) - that serve as a basis for assessing effective preparedness capabilities and identifying capability gaps.

Many questions have arisen about the way core capabilities are addressed under PPD-8 .[11] National level core capabilities need to be based on credible evidence and/or systematic use of expert opinion, quantitatively or heuristically measurable, and tailorable to different users and situations. …

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